The heights the Wellington Cowboys reached in recent years is what Macquarie captain-coach Alex Ronayne aspires to, and it makes a win in this weekend's clash between the two sides all the more important.
The Cowboys enjoyed one of their most fruitful periods between 2018 and 2020, with a Group 11 premiership win in 2019 the undoubted highlight.
The 2022 season is something of a rebuild year for the club after an off-season exodus of players, but a premiership win is very much the goal for the Raiders.
A loss to Forbes last weekend left Ronayne's men with two wins and two losses from the opening four rounds and while it's still only early in the 2022 campaign, a win on Sunday will ensure the side stays in touch with top spot in the Peter McDonald Premiership's Group 11 pool.
"We've got to bounce back this weekend if we still want to be at the top," Ronayne said.
"We're building really well as a group. We're thereabouts at the moment but we've got a lot to work on if we want to be beating teams like Forbes, Bathurst Panthers and teams like that.
"There's a lot of time to build and we're not putting ourselves into anything too big, too soon. We're working on those few areas and trying to get to the spot where (Dubbo) CYMS and Wellington has been in the past."
Ronayne missed last weekend's match at Forbes due to a rib complaint and he won't take to the field at Wellington either.
He's expected to return following the round five bye but will again look to prop Colt Ure and halfback Josh Merritt to provide the leadership against the Cowboys.
You never take Wello lightly.Alex Ronayne
Wellington heads into the match without a win to its name this year but Justin Toomey-White's side did go close last weekend and led Nyngan 12-0 early on before ultimately being beaten 16-12.
"You never take Wello lightly," Ronayne said.
"Especially in Wellington at the graveyard (Kennard Park) there. Justo does a good job and they've got a good team but they've just been a bit unlucky so far.
"They're always looking for that win and they're always hard to beat at home. We're a team that doesn't take anyone lightly.
"They're going to be tough and we're up for it."
As well as Ronayne, the Raiders will be without EJ Fernando again while five-eighth Jai Merritt will also miss the match.
Fullback Blake Merritt will make the move to the number six jersey while fullback Nathan Walker and workhorse Mark Merritt will make the step up from reserve grade.
"Nath has been doing a good job in reserve grade and I think he's earned the shot and I'm looking forward to seeing him play," Ronayne said.
The action at Kennard Park starts with league tag at 11am on Sunday while the first grade match is scheduled to kick-off at 2.30pm.
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